Systematically Studying Angels

Systematically Studying Angels April 3, 2020

I think every Christian at some point is curious about the spiritual world. Whether through an encounter with a Frank Peretti novel from the 90s, one of the Left Behind books from the 90s, or catching an episode of Supernatural after the 5th season (not, alas, from the 90s, but that would have brought some closure to the sentence…), we’ve all wondered about where angels and demons fit in to our lives as believers.

Image: Crossway

To help us figure that out, Graham Cole has written Against the Darkness: The Doctrine of Angels, Satan, and Demons. A part of the “Foundations of Evangelical Theology” series, this book gives us a systematic theology of angelology, along with the practical applications of it for our lives.

Throughout the book we are given a thorough discussion of several topics, including the nature of angels as created beings, the activity of angels, the nature of Satan, the activity and nature of demons, the relationship of Christ to the demons as Christus victor (in that He wins the victory over them, rather than atoning for them), the nature of spiritual warfare, and the place of angels and demons in eschatology.

Cole gives a quick overview of multiple major perspectives on each of these issues, before settling on what he sees as the clearest articulation of Biblical doctrine. And while I don’t always share the perspective from which he begins (I’m not a continuationist, for example–though neither am I a rabid cessationist), Cole’s analysis is rigorous, clear, fair, and robustly Biblical. This isn’t the sort of book you pick up and read for leisure, but it is the sort of book you should read to learn what the Bible has to say about spiritual beings.

One thing that I would have liked to have read a bit more about (and this is not necessarily a criticism of the book–we certainly can’t blame the author for not including what he wasn’t writing about): do angels bear the Image of God? The topic is mentioned here and there (and gets a small section in engaging some of the competing streams of thought in the field), but I think there’s probably more to explore there for those interested in working through just what the imago Dei is. (For more on that, see Jacob Shatzer’s book–reviewed here.)

Again, that’s not a failing of Against the Darkness. Overall this book is excellent and worth your time.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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